Full Stomach, Fuller Heart
(an occasional series)
This will be my last food memoir. Unless it isn’t. Even as I type, possibilities are appearing in the Magic 8-Ball window of my memory (Q. “Are there other foods I should write about?” A. “Reply hazy, try again”).
My earliest walk down hamburger lane led to the world’s oldest surviving McDonald’s. Located in the L.A. suburb of Downey, California, it was built long before Mickey D’s went on to conquer the known universe. And its mascot wasn’t a clown, it was an animated-neon chef named Speedee.
Mom and Dad counted pennies in those days, so it was the only place we could afford to eat out. Our tiny, novice-level tract home was just blocks away, and we’d walk there together–a big adventure for me since I wasn’t even allowed to cross the street on my own. That was where I learned to order a hamburger “with mustard only.”
Just like Dad.
A few years later, we graduated to a bigger tract home in a brand new suburb across the border in booming Orange County. As a newspaper dealer, my father worked seven days a week, so I have very few “just me and Dad” memories; and the ones I do have are tied to the newspaper biz.
There were ticky-tacky tracts everywhere, with brand new lawns just waiting to sprout, and newlywed couples just waiting to subscribe to the Herald Express. So every other week or so, Dad would round up his most enterprising paperboys, which included me, and we’d knock on front doors. Think of us as younger, cuter Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I was a quick-talking hambone with an irresistible grin (practice makes perfect). So I nearly always claimed the night’s “Most New Subscribers” bonus. Which was great, but putting the look of pride on Dad’s face was my goal, not putting money in my bank account.
Afterward, Dad would take us to a local McDonald’s wannabe, Sam’s Burgers, where I’d order a cheeseburger “with mustard-only.”
Just like Dad.
We’d eat and laugh, just me and Dad, and, oh yeah, the other boys. But, honestly, it seemed like no one else was even there.
Hamburgers aren’t my favorite food anymore. Although I do appreciate a well-grilled gourmet hamburger with fresh and inventive toppings. But there’s still a place in my heart for those greasy little burger-stand burgers “with mustard only.” Because, in the Magic 8-Ball window of my memory, that translates to…
Just me and Dad.